June is National Indigenous History Month

As National Indigenous Peoples Day approaches on June 21, those of us living on unceded First Nation territories can take the opportunity to learn more about the history of the land and the people who have lived here since time immemorial.

Learning some of the island’s Indigenous placenames is one step toward recognizing and respecting the rich heritage of the local First Peoples. If you live on the north end of the island, you can say that you live up near P’q’unup. If you are travelling south to Ruckle Park, you are going down to ȾESNOEN or (S)ts’usna’um’. And now the Salt Spring Historical Society and Archives has unveiled an online, interactive First Nations Placenames Map which provides not only the names of significant locations in the SENĆOŦEN and Hul’q’umi’num’ languages but also audio recordings by Elders ȻOSINIYE (Lindy Elliott) and Luschiim (Arvid Charlie), allowing users to hear the correct pronunciations and practice using them.

To further your knowledge, clicking “more…” on the map under each labelled site will reveal some of the First Nation history there, expertly compiled by Chris Arnett. “Placenames have been omitted for space, privacy, and ongoing treaty negotiations, but even this small sample shows the diversity and span of Indigenous history encoded on Salt Spring Island”, writes Arnett.


Islanders can also visit the new Indigenous Panels, installed at Ganges Harbour and Fernwood Dock after a five-year collaboration by a group of volunteers led by Phil Vernon and Chris Marshall in partnership with Elders, artists, translators, and knowledge consultants from Tsartlip, Tsawout, Quw’utsun, Halalt, and Penelakut Nations. The panels beautifully introduce visitors to aspects of local First Nations history and culture but only touch the surface of learning to be done/undone.


Adding QR codes to the Indigenous Panels has allowed for the archives team, led by webmaster Brian Smallshaw, to expand on content by linking the panels to the new First Nations of Salt Spring Island landing page which will continue to be developed as more work is completed.

The Placenames Map and associated pages are the culmination of over two decades of inquiry. The project was initiated in 2003 by the late Frank Neumann along with anthropologist Chris Arnett, who began meeting with First Nations Elders to record Indigenous placenames and any other information they were willing to share in connection to Salt Spring Island; many of those who contributed to the project are no longer with us.

This work was completed with support from the Salt Spring Island Foundation and in part by the Donna Martin Legacy Fund.

The Salt Spring Island Historical Society is deeply grateful to the many Elders who have generously trusted us and shared their knowledge over many years to bring this project to life.

June 10, 2024 4:57 PM